In today’s era, social media has become a vital part of our lives, profoundly altering how we interact, connect and absorb information. As per the data on Statista, in January 2024, there were 5.35 billion internet users globally, which constituted 66.2% of the global population. Of this total, 5.04 billion, or 62.3% of the world’s population, are social media users. While it has several advantages, its outcome on society is fairly complex. It has influenced various aspects of our lives. Let’s dive deep into the various effects of social media on our mental health.

Potential Benefits of Social Media

  1. Develop Connections: Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and many others help us connect with our family, friends, and acquaintances despite our geographical barriers.
  2. Enhance Learning Skills: Social media plays a crucial role in developing our digital skills, which are increasingly essential in today’s technology-driven world. With new developments, automation, and artificial intelligence, digital skills have become extremely important. Additionally, it provides informative educational content, courses, and discussions on many advantages.
  3. Information Sharing: Social media is a great platform for the quick circulation of news, information, and ideas. It helps the users to stay updated with ongoing events and topics of interest.
  4. Business and Networking: Social media platforms are quite beneficial for promoting businesses, building brand awareness, and networking with probable clients.
  5. Community Development: These sites can be used to participate in online activities, raise awareness, organise events, and showcase issues to a much larger audience. They provide an opportunity to learn to function successfully in a community.
  6. Make New Friends: Social media is an excellent platform to meet new people and make new friends. It encourages positive connections with others who share similar interests and hobbies.
  7. Seek Support: It enables people to offer and seek emotional support during hard times.
  8. Provides Entertainment: From Instagram reels and Facebook videos to the latest podcasts on YouTube and viral memes on Twitter, social media platforms are a great source of entertainment.

Potential Harms of Social Media​

  1. Induces Feelings of Incompleteness: Social media may evoke feelings of inadequacy. People often find themselves comparing their lives comparing their lives and physical appearances with others on social media, giving way to feelings of resentment and discontentment.
  2. Distraction and Addiction: Excessive usage of social media during work or study leads to distraction and reduced productivity. Individuals are compelled to check their phones now and then, disrupting them from real-life interactions and overall well-being.
  3. Fear Of Missing Out: Excessive use of social media often triggers a compulsive feeling of missing out. People frequently feel that others are having more fun and living better lives than themselves. Due to this feeling, they are compelled to check their notifications almost every second, only to make them feel better. This regret for missing out can trigger anxiety and impact self-esteem to a great extent.
  4. Negative Effects on Health: Too much use of social media can lead to sleep and attention problems. Igor Pantic, MD, PhD has associated online social networking with several psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
  5. Cyberbullying: Social media platforms are a hotbed for cyberbullying. People are frequently trolled, targeted, and humiliated by anonymous accounts. Pew Research Center conducted a study to better understand teens’ experiences with and views on bullying and harassment online in 2022. This survey, conducted online by Ipsos, states that a majority of teenagers have experienced cyberbullying, with name-calling and rumour spreading being the most common forms of harassment.
  6. Affects Relationships: Excessive use of social media can strain real-world human connections, causing individuals to withdraw from face-to-face interactions. This can lead to conflicts and feelings of isolation within relationships.
  7. Leaks Private Information: Sharing personal information on social media can lead to violation of privacy, identity theft, and financial fraud.
  8. Increases Laziness: People get so absorbed in virtual reality that they tend to ignore their real lives and day-to-day chores.
  9. Spreads Rumours and Scams: Social media is a breeding ground for gossip, rumours, and misinformation. Fake news spreads like a fire on social media leading to confusion and disbelief in genuine sources of information. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), two-thirds of Australians aged 15 years and over were exposed to a scam in 2021-22.
  10. Promotes Self-Obsession: Focusing on posting perfect selfies for likes and comments on social media can foster unhealthy self-obsession. Self-admiration creates an unwanted distance from real relationships.

Why Social Media Affects Mental Health?

Social media is a platform that helps us strengthen our bonds and boosts our confidence. But it also adversely affects our mental health. It can lead to significant stress, pressure to compare oneself to others, and sometimes even loneliness. Here are a few pointers to help you understand why exactly social media affects mental health. 
  1. Daily Habit: Do you find yourself scrolling through your favourite social media app as soon as you wake up? Well, you are not the only one. Social media is rapidly dominating the entire population. United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA released an advisory called Social Media and Youth Mental Health in which he says there is growing evidence that social media is causing harm to young people’s mental health.
  2. Inappropriate Content: Social media contains all genres of content, some of which can even influence an individual negatively. Engaging in harmful content may lead to self-harm. Online exposure to unachievable body types is also a growing problem. It creates undue pressure and leads to eating disorders.
  3. Increased Cases of Cyberbullying: Countless individuals, especially teenagers have fallen victim to cyberbullying. Embarrassing remarks, hurtful comments, and rumours can leave long-lasting emotional wounds.
  4. Isolation: A study at the University Of Pennsylvania researching the link between social media use and well-being, showed that high usage of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram increases the feeling of loneliness. The study discovered that cutting down on social media usage significantly decreases anxiety and helps us to feel less isolated. Consequently, increased social media usage can affect our mental health unfavourably.

Signs That Social Media Is Impacting Your Mental Health

If using social media makes you neglect your relationships and induces feelings of rage or envy, it becomes problematic. Here are a few indicators that might help you realise if social media is affecting your mental health.
  1. Constant Distraction: If you are checking your social media on and off while working or studying, it is a sign that social media is affecting your mental health.
  2. Irregular Sleep Schedule: If there are visible changes in your sleeping patterns such as difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep at night, consider it as a red flag.
  3. No Me-time: If you are spending too much time on social media and start neglecting yourself, consider it as a sign that social media is affecting your mental health.
  4. Constant Comparison: If you are constantly comparing yourself with others on social media, it is time to take a break from it.
  5. Lack Of Socialising: If you prefer scrolling through your phone at home instead of heading out and meeting your friends and family, it is a sign that it hurts your mental health.
  6. Impulsive Behaviour: Examples of impulsive behaviour to avoid include taking photos while driving, posting embarrassing content, and harassing others online in an attempt to appear “cool.”
  7. Increases Anxiety: If you find yourself feeling more anxious and nervous while checking social media, then it is a clear-cut signal that it is affecting you adversely.

Preventing Negative Effects In Teens

Social media has become an everyday ritual for teenagers. It has both positive and negative effects. Teenagers who are impacted adversely get easily distracted. They neglect their studies or engage in cyberbullying. Hence, it is extremely important to protect teenagers from the dark side of social media. Here are some tips that you can adopt to prevent the negative effects on your child. 
  • Monitor your teen’s social media account.
  • Establish clear rules and regulations related to social media usage accordingly.
  • Activate your privacy settings.
  • Promote face-to-face contact and physical activity.
  • Educate your child about appropriate online behaviour and potential risks associated with social media
  • Educate your child about the things that are not suitable while using social media.
  • Include social media breaks.

Steps To Manage Social Media Consumptions to Protect Your Mental Health

Tired of social media dominating your lifestyle? Here are a few tips that can help you reduce your screen time effectively. 
  • Switch off your mobile phones while you are studying or working.
  • Keep your notifications silent whenever needed.
  • Turn off your devices and leave them in the other room before sleeping.
  • Try to remove some social media apps for a stipulated time to direct your attention towards something more worthwhile.
  • Start engaging in physical activity and join interactive clubs to meet like-minded individuals.
  • Take time out for introspection and practice mindfulness.
  • Volunteer for Non-Profit Organisations as a way to give back to the community.
  • Express gratitude and spend time with your loved ones.
  • Turn off data connectivity while spending quality time with family.
  • Focus more on keeping yourself busy to avoid excess screen time.

When To Seek Help?

It is always good to re-evaluate your online habits and strike a healthy balance. If you’re spending too much time on social media and it’s disturbing your everyday life, it may be time to seek help. If you feel that using social media is making you anxious and you are unable to focus on work, it is time to take action. You can seek help from friends and family who can offer guidance and support. Additionally, you can reach out to a mental health professional who can help you manage your social media use and improve your overall health.

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Disclaimer

This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.